AMERICAN SOCIETY
OF SAFETY ENGINEERS

1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187

847.699.2929
FAX 847.296.3769
www.asse.org

April 8, 2003

The Honorable Carl L. Marcellino
New York Senate
Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247

RE: Recognizing Appropriate Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals in SB 896

Dear Senator Marcelllino:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is an international organization representing more than 30,000 safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals dedicated to workplace safety and health. Of those members, more than 1400 work and live in New York and belong to six chapters in Albany, Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, and Syracuse. ASSE's members are committed to seeing that every American worker has the best possible opportunity to return home healthy and safe from their jobs. As the enclosed fact sheet indicates, ASSE is the largest professional occupational safety and health organization and, founded in 1911, has been in existence by far the longest.

On behalf of ASSE's members in New York, ASSE respectfully asks that you reconsider or amend SB 896, the bill you sponsored to establish a task force that would advise the Department of Health on establishing permissible exposure limits for mold and standards to assess mold health risks and identifying molds for New York. ASSE's concern is that the bill, as written, unnecessarily limits the list of "authoritative bodies" in Section 4810.2 that are "recognized national or international entities with expertise on public health, mold identification and remediation…" to two organizations that represent largely only one type of SH&E professional. The professional associations listed in the bill -- the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and the American Industrial Hygiene Association -- represent mostly Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) when, in fact, a variety of other SH&E professionals also have the training and experience to provide expertise on mold issues. Not including a wider representation of SH&E professionals through the organizations that represent them unfortunately limits the expertise and resources that will be available to the Department of Health and the New York legislature in determining the best approaches to mold. This limitation also leaves open the possibility that one SH&E designation may be given economic favor over others in the way New York ultimately decides to address the mold issue.

CIHs Not Only SH&E Mold Professionals

That CIHs are qualified as authorities on mold is not in question. ASSE is proud to count CIHs among the variety of SH&E professionals that are its members. In fact, ASSE's Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty is the fastest growing area of the Society's membership. What is important is that, if New York is to obtain the best advice on the issue, it should include the widest possible breadth of knowledge and experience available.

CIHs are not the only SH&E designation capable of addressing mold analysis and remediation issues. As one example, Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs), which are a core group of ASSE members, must pass a stringent and long-established certification examination administered by the independent Board of Certified Safety Professionals that includes demonstrating mastery of industrial hygiene. In addition, there is a long list of other SH&E designations that allow individuals to gain professional capabilities in mold testing and remediation, including but not limited to Certified Hazardous Materials Managers, Certified Health Physicists, Certified Occupational Health Nurses, Certified Professional Chemists, Occupational Health and Safety Technologists, Registered Environmental Assessors, Registered Environmental Health Specialists, Registered Hazardous Substance Professionals, Registered Hazardous Substance Specialists, and Registered Safety Professionals. ASSE is most likely the one organization that represents the widest variety of these different SH&E professionals.

Despite the different designations, however, it is important to note that each of these professional designations are accredited by either the Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialties Board (CESB) or the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the two internationally recognized bodies that provide a level of certainty that professional designations truly measure the professional capabilities they say the do.

ASSE suggests that SB 896 be amended in one of two ways. ASSE could be added in Section 4810.2 to ensure a wider representation of SH&E professionals. Alternatively, references to specific organizations could be deleted and replaced by a reference to SH&E professional designations accredited by CESB or NCCA. This change would ensure that New York receives the widest and best possible advice from qualified SH&E professionals without the unintended possible consequence of giving one group of SH&E professionals unfair economic advantage if their advice steers New York's efforts in directions not reflective of the various professional capabilities currently available to address mold risks. Included with this letter is a New Jersey law passed last year that uses the accreditation approach in assuring title protection for both CIHs and other safety professionals, something CSPs, CIHs and other safety professionals in New Jersey worked on together to achieve. A similar even-handed approach is appropriate here.

Mold Risks Not Fully Established

Although ASSE appreciates your well intentioned desire to protect New York's citizens from what appears, from anecdotal media accounts, to be a widespread threat to health and safety, ASSE would recommend caution and due deliberation in addressing this issue through legislation at this time. Contrary to what the media and some organizations that may have a self-serving agenda would lead most to believe, not enough is known about the actual threats posed by mold to say that any legislative action is the correct action to take at this time. Use of the term "toxic mold" itself reflects how inadequately the issue of health threats posed by mold has been defined. "Toxic mold" is being used in the popular press as an umbrella term to represent what is actually a broad spectrum of health threats, from substances that might cause mild allergic reactions in some people to environmental threats such as leaking sewage pipe contamination that threaten all people.

Enclosed is a recent article from Professional Safety, ASSE's professional journal, entitled, "Mold 101: An Overview for Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals." In short, the article states that, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) currently offer guidelines for determining mold risks, much of the information on the health risks of mold is only anecdotal. The article goes on to say

(i)t is hoped that continued studies of the relationship between airborne mold levels and health effects will eventually move the information from a quasi-industry standard to a full-fledged consensus standard and perhaps ultimately, provide the basis for regulatory guidance.

Also enclosed is an article entitled "Molds and Mycotoxins in Indoor Environments" published recently in ASSE's Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty newsletter. The article reiterates the position that, though progress is being made in determining the health effects of mold, still more needs to be learned.

ASSE is confident more will be known in the near future. ASSE's own Environmental Practice Specialty and Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty are currently studying the issue and will be making recommendations about how to proceed in addressing mold threats. Until more is known about the science of the issue, ASSE suggests it would not be appropriate to move forward with any legislation, especially one that would require the adoption of permissible exposure limits for mold.

Conclusion

Both our members in New York and staff at ASSE's national headquarters stand ready to help you fulfill your goal of helping New York's residents and businesses deal with the possibility of mold risks to health and safety. ASSE appreciates your time and consideration of the Society's concerns.

Sincerely,

Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP
President

 

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